Pope John Paul II pleaded with all native Indians of the Americas to forgive the white man for 500 years of injustices and offenses.
The pope also said there was no doubt European colonizers had inflicted "enormous suffering" on native Indians because they were not able to see them as children of the same God.
"In the name of Jesus Christ and as pastor of the church, I ask you to forgive those who have offended you," the pope said Tuesday in a message to the hemisphere's indigenous peoples.
"Forgive all those who during these 500 years have been the cause of pain and suffering for your ancestors and for yourselves," the pope said in a nine-page message.
His message came one day after thousands of Indians throughout the hemisphere marked the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in America with bitter protests against the European invaders.
African-American groups have also boycotted commemorations of Columbus, saying his arrival began the destruction of native cultures and led to the African slave trade.
The pope, however, has praised Columbus, saying his discovery led to the introduction of Christianity in the New World. In distinguishing between colonization and evangelization, the pope has condemned past and present injustices against indigenous people while defending the church's work on their behalf over the centuries.
On the last full day of his trip to the Dominican Republic, the pope met separately with representatives of Indians and African-Americans in the Vatican's embassy here and gave them two written messages for all their peoples throughout the Americas.
In his message to Indians of all tribes, the pope said the church could not forget the "enormous sufferings inflicted on the people of this continent during the era of conquest and colonization."
He said the abuses committed by the European Christian colonizers were due to the "lack of love in those people who were unable to see the indigenous as brothers and sons of the same God."
In a separate message to African-Americans, he condemned as a "shameful trade" the African slavery, which followed the discovery of the New World, and said the Christians responsible had betrayed their faith.
The pope again defended the work of early missionaries from accusations that they were partners in colonization as the cross and the sword marched together.
"What other motives if not preaching the ideas of the gospel spurred the missionaries to denounce the injustices committed against the Indios at the time of the conquest?" he asked.
He assured them the church was well aware of "the alienation that weighs on you, the injustices you suffer, the serious difficulties you have in defending your lands and your rights, the frequent lack of respect for your customs and traditions."
Concorde breaks record: A supersonic Concorde jet returned to Lisbon, Portugal, on Tuesday after circling the globe in a record 32 hours and 49 minutes, Air France officials said.
The plane, which left the Portuguese capital Monday morning, beat the previous record of 36 hours and 54 minutes, set in 1988, by more than four hours.
The plane stopped six times for refueling on the 25,250-mile flight to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in America.